Coupon Basics | How to Organize your Coupons

How to Organize your Coupons

Whether you have been couponing for years or you are just getting started knowing how to organize your coupons is a must. If your coupons are unorganized you chance missing out on free or deeply discounted products and we sure don’t want to do that!

There are many different ways to organize your coupons that will fit any personality or shopping style. There is one very important tip I want to go over with you before we begin organizing your coupons.

There are expiration dates on coupons and it is very important to make it easier to find them because you are going to be dealing with a large amount of coupons. It is much easier if you take the time to color code your expiration dates with a different colored highlighter for each month.

For instance if you use blue for January then when February first rolls around you can grab all the coupons that have the expiration date highlighted in blue because you know all these have expired.

Coupon Binder Method

Having a coupon binder is a great way to organize your coupons. There are a few things that you need to get to make a coupon binder.

What you will need

  • 3- Ring binder (I have had better luck when they are at least 2-3 inches thick)
  • Scissors
  • Baseball card holders (approximately 15-20, this varies greatly on the amount of coupons you have)
  • Calculator
  • Pens, pencils and notebook (use the notebook for taking notes or tracking prices)
  • Zippered Pencil Pouch
  • A copy of each stores coupon policy that you frequent
  • Folder (for holding coupon policies)
  • Highlighters (for highlighting expiration dates)
  • Dividers (to place in the binder to make categories)

Place the 3-ring binder in the front of your folder for the pens, pencils, calculator and notebook (if it will fit)

Place the baseball card holders with the openings facing up toward the ceiling when you’re holding it. This is pretty important because when you are in the store they will fall all over the floor if they are not in there right.

Highlight the expiration date before placing them in the coupon organizer. Place the dividers in the 3 ring binder to separate categories of coupons.  Here are some suggested categories:

Baking
Beverages
Breakfast
Canned/Jar/Boxed Food
Beauty
Personal Care
Cleaning
Household
Pets
Snacks

The Mini Organizer

You can find many different sizes of mini accordion style coupon organizers pretty much anywhere. They are much lighter than the coupon organizer and much easier to lug around. They usually have around 8-10 slots which work well in keeping them in separate categories.

If you plan on keeping each and every coupon that you come across you may find that you outgrow the mini organizer very quickly but it works really well for some and is much easier on the back!

Keeping Whole Inserts

Keeping whole inserts is a great time saver because instead of cutting each and every coupon you actually keep the inserts whole and file them in a box.

Tip:  Use a permanent marker to write on the front of each insert the date the paper came out and the name of the insert.

When you search on a coupon database to find the coupons that you are looking for they will advise you of the name of the insert (Red Plum, Smart Source or P&G) and the date it was printed. Keeping them filed by date and name will help you quickly find the coupon and cut it out when needed.

This method saves you tons of time by not clipping the coupons you don’t use. The downfall is carrying a big box of inserts with you may be quite heavy and leaving them at home may cause you to miss a good deal. My advice would be to take it with you and leave it in the car. That way if you find an unadvertised deal you won’t have to go far for the coupon.

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Supporting the Military Through Expired Coupons

Supporting Military Families through Expired Coupons
Those of you who are new to my site may be curious as to what you should do with any coupons that you might not be able to use, that expire – and the great news is that we can use them to support the troops.

For military families who relocate overseas to various locations…the transition can be very difficult.

Enlisted soldiers and their families may find stretching their dollars a real challenge, even more so then those who are based in this country.

We can send those families our expired coupons or….sending them to cooperatives (co-ops) around the nation who can pass them along.   There are several military family support centers overseas who offer coupon exchanges.

The military commissaries (grocery stores) overseas accept manufacturer’s cents-off coupons for up to six months past their printed expiration dates.

 

Some tips for gathering those coupons:

  • Cut your coupons, do not send full inserts.
  • Tallying your total or separating coupons/sorting is not required.
  • Printed internet coupons can be used by recipients.
  • Do not staple your coupons.
  • Ship those coupons that have recently expired in the last month or two.
  • Do not send store coupons, or Restaurant coupons.
  • You can send any coupon that is a Manufacturer coupon with a valid redemption address.

We have reached out to Coupons for Troops and just this past week I requested for my readers to be matched with a family serving overseas. They have been gracious enough to work with us and match us with a family in Okinawa, Japan.

She has permitted me to share her FPO address on my site so that we can support her by sending our coupons.

Shantelle Stewart
PSC 557 Box 1871
FPO AP 96379-1871 
Shantelle is with the Marine Corp, and will be returning stateside in March, 2016 – until that time, I encourage you to send your expired coupons to her by referencing the tips above. 
 
You do not need to send a large box at once – you can keep it easier to manage by going through your coupons on a weekly basis, setting expireds aside, and putting in a regular letter-size envelope addressed to her FPO address, above. 

I am able to message Shantelle through email if an issue arises – but she is looking forward to receiving your coupons and sharing with MilitaryFamilies near her in Okinawa.

 

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Understanding Coupon Verbage | Redeem At vs. Redeem Only

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I have scored several emails this week regarding coupons that hold the logo for other retailers … can you use them at Fry’s? At Safeway? How do they work?  And more….. which means many many more may have the same question.

Many of you over the past few weeks have asked for some clarification on coupons that you may print that hold the logo of another retailer.

Many times other retailers will use verbage on the coupon that maybe confusing to those who are seeking to redeem them in store. Hopefully this helps you better understand the verbage to alleviate the issues you may have when trying to use.

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Redeemable at Walmart – Merely suggests you can find the item at Walmart, but provided it is a manufacturer coupon, can be used at any store

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Redeem ONLY at (Retailer name) – Suggests that the coupon may ONLY be used at the particular retailer noted, despite the fact that it is a manufacturer coupon.

Manufacturer Coupon with another store logo (or, catalina coupon with another store logo) – Is indeed a manufacturer and can be used at any retailer, with some exceptions:

  • CVS will not permit the use of a manufacturer with another store logo, per their coupon policy
  • Fry’s will accept a manufacturer coupon with another store logo, provided it is a manufacturer with a valid redemption address, and does not say “only”….. this includes Register Rewards from Walgreens.
  • Safeway will accept a manufacturer coupon with another store logo, provided it is a manufacturer with a valid redemption address… and is for a specific item.

Always take the coupon policy with you for your designated store; you can find those policies by visiting my store deals page here.

Requesting a Rain Check | 4 Simple Steps

How to Request a Rain Check

Many of you head to CVS on a Sunday morning and find the shelves wiped out…… I too seem to have that problem  – lately it has been incredibly bad.. there are so many in my area who coupon.

A rain check is a slip of paper from the store that will permit you to purchase the item as advertised, at a later date when the product is in stock.  At CVS, rain checks are good forever. At Fry’s they last 30 days. And at Safeway, usually 90 days.

How to Request a Rain Check

To get a rain check, just request one at the checkout, or, at the customer service counter. Fry’s will give rain checks at Customer Service, while CVS will do them at the front counter. Usually a copy of the ad is all that is necessary. Fry’s will usually only do a rain check for an item that is advertised in the ad, unless the cashier wants to be more accommodating.

I recommend having a spot in your accordion file strictly for “rain checks” – that way you don’t lose track of what you have.

Before Asking for a Rain Check

Ask for a substitution.  It doesn’t ever hurt to ask……  Sometimes you may even have a coupon for the item that they substitute to you, which makes it a greater deal.

How they can help you later

If you don’t get in on the deal, grab a rain check.  Down the road, you may be fortunate enough to get an even higher value coupon to “pair” with that rain check. Even more, in the case of CVS, you may even get a $5 off $25 purchase coupon – if the sales are poor that week, but you have rain checks in your coupon holder, you can make your own deal.

By grabbing a rain check, you extend the sale to yourself. If your store limits to 3 “like” coupons (for doubling), then go one step further – every time that you go to that store & find the item “out of stock” – ask for another rain check. Then you can split the transaction without having to worry about the “3 like coupon” policy.

My 30-days is Up, and Still No Stock

If the store fails to have any more in stock before the rain check expires, let the manager or customer service counter know: it is their duty to ensure that they keep sufficient stock in the store.

A 30-day rain check should have afforded them that opportunity – if it didn’t, and they are still out, you are entitled to another extension on that rain check so you can get the items as were advertised in their ad.

Using SavingStar to Reduce your Grocery Bill (+ Now Works at Walmart, Target & More!)

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A few weeks ago I shared with you my favorite money-saving apps. A few weeks ago I reminded you that iBotta is a great one to pick up – last week, we talked about Checkout51.

AND, this week we’ll focus on SavingStar.

You can easily save money on your grocery bill with SavingStar – if you are new to SavingStar, it’s a rather easy way to shave a few dollars off your bill.

SavingStar allows you to save electronic coupons to your card that you can redeem at your favorite store. They are an easy way to coupon, without having to actual clip paper coupons.

SAVINGSTAR

SavingStar coupons are one time use – they do not come off your grocery total – but they DO get deposited into your SavingStar account 7-30 after your grocery purchase. The individual SavingStar offers are not intended to be used with Manufacturer coupons, but the special purchase offers can.

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Special purchase offers (such as the Smart Ones– above) can be done over several trips and can be combined with Manufacturer coupons.

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SavingStar allows to you cash out your savings at $5.00 – in the form of Paypal, Amazon gift card and more.  To get the savings:

:::: Sign up for SavingStar. Identify your card number (CVS, Fry’s, Kroger, Bashas, etc) in your profile.

:::: Select the eCoupons you like on the website or mobile app, and they are automatically linked to your store card.

:::: Use your card when you checkout and the money is added to your SavingStar account.

The savings don’t change your bill at the register and the savings are not printed on the receipt. Instead, they get deposited into your account within 7-30 days depending upon where you shop.

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:::: Once your SavingStar account reaches $5 in savings, you can pick your payout from a bank account deposit, a PayPal account deposit, an Amazon gift card, or a donation to charity.

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And NOW, you  can now use SavingStar at Walmart, Target, Kmart, Meijer, Walgreens, Family Dollar, WinCo & more.

To do so, you’ll need to grab the SavingStar App for iPhone HERE or Android HERE

For automatic-savings stores, use your registered card at checkout as you normally do. For receipt-scan stores, take a picture of your receipt with the SavingStar app.

Discounts are not received at checkout. Savings will post within 2-22 days depending on the store. You’ll receive an email when they post to your account.

Blog Feature | Search for Sale Items

Search

Just a reminder – You may have noticed another improvement to the blog; if you refer to the right side of the blog you will see a search box at top of the weekly grocery deals.

  • Search for a Deal
  • Search the Site

Search for a Deal searches for a specific item on sale this week among all the stores..

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For example, If you are eager to find out where Macaroni & Cheese is on sale, and you are limited for time & don’t want to go through the matchups, you can type Horizon– hit Search.

 

You’ll get a list of all of the current weekly deals that include Ritz at each store.

Do note that the search box will look through all of the grocery lists I have at present on my site – with the exception of Albertsons.

How to Save Money Without Using Coupons

Save Money Without Using Coupons - The CentsAble Shoppin

I posted this a few months ago – but we have so many new readers that I wanted to make sure we posted it again so that those who are new to the site can read this great article too.

Whether you are new to coupons, or you have been couponing for some time, at some point you will experience coupon burnout.

I have been couponing for over 8 years – it started as energetic excitement to catch the next biggest deal, but slowly over time (and several children later), I have transformed my shopping habits.

As much as I love to coupon, I will admit that I, just like anyone else, get frustrated to see empty shelves, and lack of stock. I used to pick up 4-5 papers each weekend, cut and file in my binder, and spend hours putting together trips.

But eventually, after having several children, I have found that spending time racing from store to store is not only costing me time, but also quite a bit in gas. The money I was saving to find the next best deal was being spent at the fuel pump – depending on the sale, It was fairly common for me to run to Fry’s and find NONE of what was on my list.

Frustrating? Sure is…… even more when it’s hot and you tote your kids around. 

You would probably be surprised to know that until this past month, I did not subscribe or get any Sunday papers. I only use printables, and from one computer. I rarely visit the grocery store to do any shopping… I do pop in to grab a picture of items on shelves (randomly) – but as far as pulling out the grocery cart, not quite as often.  I usually shop once per week, and if I do, my percentage of savings is usually near 50-60%.

I have learned how to find ways to save without coupons – and it has worked out quite well for us.   I do still use coupons but I’m a little more strategic about my time and deals.

Here are some of the ways we have adapted to save:

Price Match Produce

We make a weekly trip to Mesa, and visit the Ranch Market to pick up all of our vegetables. If we can’t make it, we’ll price match what’s inexpensive that week at Walmart – or, head over to Schnepf Farms and do U-Pick Thursday or Friday. 

We try to make vegetables the focus of our meals rather than the meat, which helps us save more – especially when we can stock up on green peppers, squash, and potatoes. I use the price list on my blog to help me with price matching in 5 areas, it works well for us and I have never had an issue price matching at my San Tan Valley Walmart (knock on wood!) – though your experience price matching can vary.

Meal Plan

When I started couponing, I would just aim for anything that was FREE or cheap – without any regard to what I actually had already in my cabinet or pantry. Fast forward 6 months and I would be starting at a pantry of expired taco shells that I purchased just because they were cheap – knowing what we had, and what we could use was a great start to putting together a meal plan that put more functionality in our budget.

If we had a pile of taco shells & sauce, then I knew that having tomatoes, onions, and lettuce would be important for us to put those shells to use, and finding a way to grab some ground beef would also come in handy.

By centering our meals around what we had, and what produce was on sale, we would eliminate any unnecessary trips to the store for random items – just because they were on sale.

Everyday Price List - The CentsAble Shoppin

Use Warehouse Stores

As much as I love the next best deal, I am also a huge proponent of warehouse shopping – time is money (at least for me) – and while the majority may think of warehouse stores as exorbitant prices as compared to what you could pay with coupons, it’s important to remember that for some people, spending 3-4 or more hours clipping coupons, driving to the store and finding empty shelves can be costly too. 

We know exactly what we need to buy at Costco – we shop there for it bi-weekly, and we eliminate the need to buy newspapers, drive from store to store, and pull kids in and out of the truck (might I say that driving a Yukon is costly!)

For us, Cheese is a great deal – as are trash bags, baby wipes, tortillas (similar to TortillaLand), and Organic Chips & Bread.

Don’t forget that if you are a warehouse shopper you can find the Everyday Price List for BOTH Sam’s Club & Costco on the blog – and both are searchable with the Favado App.  I also use the GreenPolkaDot Box to stock up on Grass-Fed Ground Beef – 20+ pounds in one order will last me for a few months.

Making things from Scratch

Buying real food and cooking from scratch saves us a ton of money.  We try to use our Crock Pot as often as we can ….. we eat lots of soup (which freezes super too!), and we incorporate Rice and Potatoes into many of our meals.

We avoid buying processed food, and so most of what we spend our money on is fresh, lean meat and produce.

We have great websites like Pinterest which work super for inspiration, and we try to cook for at least 2 extra people so that Dave can have some for the next day’s lunch.

Have a Go-To Store

When you coupon, it’s easy for one to think they need to visit 3-4 stores to catch every day. As great of a deal as it might be, it’s definitely not practical – you are spending fuel to go around, not to mention the time spent putting your trips together.

We know where our “Go-To” store is – and we know what we always get at that particular store – and we don’t deviate from that unless we can get that item at a deeply discounted price elsewhere.

As much as I love Fry’s, I find my Go-To store to be Walmart – it’s right across the street, I can price match there, they have Organic Milk, and I can make ONE trip and get everything I need. Fry’s is great too but it’s a few more miles for me – and although they double, they are always out of the sale item, unwilling to write a rain check, and coupon limits don’t really make the longer distance worth the extra time spent.

With that I Ask….

What has helped you save .. without clipping coupons?  Have your shopping habits changed over time?

Saving Money at Ikea | Tips for Discounts on Furniture & Other Household Items

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I posted this last  month, and wanted to post it again… for those of you who missed this. My good friend Danielle is an Ikea-aholic – she has all kinds of tips for saving at this popular store – she shares some of them with us below.

Do you love Ikea? Many of us do…. just recently, I discovered that Ikea has an “As-Is” Section. I had no idea that I could pickup even greater deals at one of my favorite stores.  My friend Danielle is one of the biggest fans of the store, and was excited to share some tips to saving huge at one of the most popular Home-stores around.

I’ve been IKEA-obsessed for over a decade. Even though I know the store and the products like the back of my hand I still take my time to prepare for my trips online because IKEA can be an intimidating place.

First thing’s first, create a profile on IKEA.com. This will allow you to save items to a shopping list, see if they’re in stock, and even see what isle and bin numbers they’re in if you want to avoid IKEA all together. Pop in, get out, go home and build some things!

Take some time to browse IKEA.com and their digital catalogues. This should reduce the amount of time that you’re actually in the store. Their displays and new items can easily distract first timers!

Did you know that each IKEA store also has their own page on IKEA.com? For Tempe IKEA click here.

From here you can search for monthly in-store specials and other promotions. Don’t forget to check out their restaurant and market offers as well! IKEA makes a wonderful date night or family night on the cheap!

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MONDAY
IKEA FAMILY Members receive a FREE cool bag with a purchase of $25 or more in the Swedish Food Market. Reg $5.99 Must show IKEA FAMILY card for offer.


TUESDAY
Kids Eat FREE! Children 12 and under can choose from one combo meal valued at $2.99.


WEDNESDAY in the Restaurant
Feed a family for four for only $9.99! Includes two adult entrees (value $6.99 or less – beverage not included) and two kids meals (value $2.99 each).

WEDNESDAY in the Swedish Food Market
20% off ALL Salmon products in the Swedish Food Market including marinated salmon; smoked salmon, frozen; marinated and smoked salmon; salmon fillet, frozen; PASTEJ LAX, salmon spread.


THURSDAY
Roasted chicken with mashed potatoes only $1.99! Reg $3.99


FRIDAY
Fish and chips only $1.99! Reg $4.99

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OK, so you have your list and measurements in hand – lets go to IKEA! Be sure to stop at an IKEA Family Kiosk and get your shiny, orange IKEA Family card! This is what it gives you:

  • Additional discounts in the restaurant
  • A chance to win a $100 IKEA Gift Card 
    every time you scan your card in the store
  • FREE coffee or hot tea at 
    the restaurant
  • More Småland time for the kids— 90 minutes total on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays (capacity-depending)
  • Free frozen yogurt with a purchase of one at regular price when you pick up your card for the first time
  • 90 Day Price Protection

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Once you’ve gotten your little ones squared away, make a B-line for the As-Is section. It’s located downstairs, tucked away between the very last isles of the warehouse and the registers. Chances are, what you’re looking for is already here!

***Shop As-Is on Wednesdays and get an additional 10% off***

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Every price tag looks like this. It shows you the name of the item, the total discount, and WHY it’s in the As-Is section. Some items say damaged, scratched, chipped, discontinued, returned by customer, floor display, or has a missing piece.

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This is the Handyman Corner. Here’s where you’ll find shelves, doors, drawer fronts, and panels. Visit ikeahackers.net for some excellent ideas on how to transform any IKEA item and get crafty!

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The As-Is Mattress section is a steal as well! Your ‘brand new’ reduced price mattress may have has a few hundred butts on it, but that 30-60% discount might make it worth it! Nothing a mattress pad can’t fix right?

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So you’ve managed to pull yourself away from the As-Is section but you’re still on the hunt? Look for these bright yellow LAST CHANCE tags!

When they say last chance, they mean it! These items are being discontinued and transitioned out of the store to make room for new stuff. If you’ve been coveting something and don’t want to risk not having it then you’d better hurry up and grab it.

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However, if you’re a gambler then you can get one heck of a steal! I recently bought a $250 sofa cover for only $50!

If you want to risk even more, these last chance items might even end up in the As-Is section. I was able to score replacement covers for my chair and ottoman at an 80% discount – they would have cost me $98, but instead I only spent $19.80. 

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I totally understand that IKEA isn’t for everyone. If you make the trip and don’t find anything that’s for you, don’t make the whole day a waste. IKEA’s $0.99 toilet brushes and $0.49 dish brushes are SOOO worth it!

For additional help, please visit IKEA’s Practical Tips Page.

Thanks, Danielle!

How to Print Coupons from your Mobile Device

Hand holding mobile smart phone

Over the last several days many of you have asked how to print coupons from your mobile device.

Having an iPad, iPod, or Android can be a tremendous asset, when it comes to printing coupons. But – it takes a number of steps & requirements to be able to print from these devices.

While nothing is guaranteed, here are a few tips that might help If you are looking to put your device to use.

Use a compatible printer.  If you print from an Apple Device, you must use a printer that is AirPrint compatible (scroll down to see which printers support AirPrint).  You can see what printers are included by heading to this list.  If you are printing from Coupons.com you will need to use an HP-Printer.

Have a Proper Network Connection.  To print from any mobile device you will need to have a wireless network. Set up your device to Wi-Fi mode and wait for it to search for your home network. Once you find the network, log in with the requested credentials – you should then be able to print using the network printer selected in the print application and by selecting the print command.

Install Printer Software.  If you are printing from an Apple Device, you will need to use Apple’s AirPrint.  OR if you are using Android, you will need to Download PrinterShare – you can get the Free version or you can pay ($13) for a wider range of use.  The FREE version has quite a few limitations. 

Grab your Coupons.  Grab the GroceryIQ app for Android or Apple  – and / or grab Coupons.com from the Apple store for your Apple Device. The Grocery IQ App allows you to print from your device provided you have a compatible HP Printer.

Several have commented that you cannot print from Android – you can,provided you have a compatible HP Printer.  You just need to take a few steps:

  1. Download the HP ePrint app (from the Play Store)
  2. Open that app
  3. Make sure your HP ePrint Wireless Printer is recognized
  4. Set Up and register your email for the printer
  5. Select your option to go to your browser on the device
  6. Once the screen appears, register or sign in
  7. Sign in on the next screen
  8. Click “Go to HP Connected”, then select the Services tab at top
  9. Click Savings Center
  10. Browse & select your coupons

Those 4 simple steps should allow you to print – however, as with anything, they are not guaranteed. If you still are not able to print, you may just need to stick with your desktop computer.

Coupons that Won’t Scan | 4 Simple Tips

 Forum Key As Social Media Community Or Information

Have you ever had a trip to the store and encountered situations where your coupons have beeped? Perhaps they haven’t scanned? 

Nothing makes you more frustrated….. than having your cashier hand back your coupons – and tell you they aren’t willing to accept those that don’t scan.  Most stores have the policy that they will not accept them in this case – there are a few that are willing to type in the barcode. However, it still helps to understand why your coupons might not scan (or, might beep) so that you can be educated enough to let the cashier know or prevent frustration at the register.

Here are a few helpful things to keep in mind if your coupon won’t scan.

NEW GS1 Barcode

Last year when we talked about the GS-1 Barcode coming out, many of you may not have realized that this has been something that has been in the works for quite a while.

The NEW DataBar coupon is capable of taking in much more detailed information than the previous barcodes – not only weight, size, quantity and more – in hopes to reduce misuse of coupons.

While most POS (Point of Sale) systems are updated to accept the new DataBar Code, not all systems have been updated – therefore some coupons may still beep – and, some may not scan at all.  Many stores have a withstanding policy that they will not accept coupons that do not scan; some stores will type in the number above the barcode – your store experience may vary.

If you shop at Fry’s, Walmart or Safeway, they will not accept coupons that don’t scan. 

Poor Print Quality

If you have an older printer, check to see if it is printing in draft mode. Sometimes the old draft mode will leave to much space in between making an incomplete barcode. Some of the newer printers actually print better in draft mode than regular mode.  

You’ll also want to verify that your nozzle doesn’t need to be cleaned on your printer as well, as that will prevent it from printing a crisp, clean barcode.

Incorrect Item

If a coupon beeps when scanned, it may be that the item is the incorrect size, quantity or type for the coupon. In some cases, Buy 1 Get 1 FREE Coupons that are printed may beep as they require the cashier to enter the price for the FREE item being purchased.

The new GS1 DataBar is a more accurate system than the previous barcodes as it allows the register to pinpoint items that are not covered under the coupon to prevent misuse.

Low Resolution

If you are using an inkjet printer, you might want to try picking up a laser printer; a laser printer will have a better resolution than inkjet because laser toner works differently than inkjet printers.

Laser printers work by using high heat to fuse powdered ink to paper – since laser toner does not absorb into paper, there is no bleeding.  As a result, your coupons will be smudge proof and need no extra drying time – your coupons will be sharp and crisp – and as a result may scan better.

If you’re thinking of coupling long-term, I would highly suggest moving towards a laser printer – they are much more economical than an inkjet and you’ll find your cartridge will stretch much farther.

How to Save Money on Meat Purchases | 8 Tips to Reduce your Expenses

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For a good majority of families, meat is the most expensive purchase in a household grocery budget…… I know I have some readers who are Vegetarian – but I would suspect that the majority of you incorporate quite a bit of meat into your weekly grocery purchases.

For most of you, meat is costly – we all have ways that we cut down that cost; for some of us, it means purchasing in bulk, or price matching meat each week.

One of the biggest hang-ups to couponing is that you can’t get coupons for meat or seafood – partly correct, but in some rare cases you can.

Whatever your grocery budget, it’s always wise to set a certain amount aside for chicken, beef or seafood – or, even pork.   What one family has budgeted may or may not work for another family – so you will have to determine what works for you.

Here are some tips to reducing that out of pocket expense

Sales Cycles & Meat Sales.

While packaged food usually has a sales cycle of 6-8 weeks, meat is a cycle of 3-4; what goes on sale now, will go back for the same price a month from now. Keep in mind though that meat is also seasonal; you won’t find Ham on sale in June – but you will find Hot Dogs & Hamburgers on sale for summer grilling.

You’ll want to watch those sale prices as well  – once you watch the meat prices for a few weeks, you’ll know what’s a great deal.  For example – 85/15 Ground Beef for us in Arizona usually goes for $2.85 per pound.; sometimes you can score 93/7 for $2.99 per pound on a great sale week as well – and 73/27 is commonly found at $2.29 lb or even less at Pro’s Ranch.

Every few months Fry’s has the Pork Products on a huge sale – stock up when that time comes around, and you can save on everything from pork chops to shoulder, and boneless ribs.

Grind your Own Meat.

Many of you, myself included, look for inexpensive prices on London Broil and Roasts – they work well for Ground Hamburger. Safeway & Bashas will grind your meat for free if you ask the Butcher.  AND if you have a Kitchen Aid Mixer Attachment, you can often times use that as well.

Certain roasts make for better grinding than others – you’ll want to aim for a fat content of 85/15 for the best outcome; too lean, and the meat won’t stick together well for hamburgers, too fatty & you’ll find yourself swimming in grease.

Markdowns on Meat at your Local Store.

I am always looking for markdowns on meat at Safeway – they have a small area in the meat case that they use to put their markdowns.  Try to go mid- morning; they normally mark down the meat that is short-dated and you can grab savings anywhere from 30 – 50%. 

If the dates are short, you can always cook & eat that day, or freeze if you can’t eat it immediately.

Special Purchase Opportunities. 

Here in Arizona, most of you who have an Albertsons nearby are familiar with the Special Purchase Opportunities they have going – every few weeks, they’ll offer Petite Sirloin Steak Buy 1, Get 2 FREE – and at $7.99 lb. it’s a great way to stock up on steaks for the freezer.

In these instances, I would suggest slicing the steaks thin – it’ll stretch out the steaks you buy, which are already fairly thick; you could also ask the Butcher to slice the steaks thin for you as well.

They will often times have Ribs on the same sales promotion – sometimes even Tilapia. It’s a great way to stock up, and lessen your out of pocket.

Use Catalinas & Overage.

Many times, we have freebies we can pick up at various stores – whether dog food, or plastic Glade Warmers; while we won’t always use these freebies, if they allow a small amount of overage, you can purchase them and use the overage to bring down the cost of the meat – or, items in your buggy without coupons.

Many times our overage ranges from $0.20 – $1.00 per item….. which are great ways to grab things that you might need, but are trying to lessen the cost on.  If you don’t need the items, you can always donate; the same goes for catalinas – every opportunity to get in on a catalina offer is a chance that you can use that paper cash to stock up on milk or meat as well.

Know What your Local Store Offers.

Albertsons will steam your shrimp for you, and cut your chicken for you too (all you need to do is ask!)   Food City will marinate your meat at no extra charge – and Safeway will often times grind some of the meat on sale if you ask the butcher.

Buy in Bulk.

Zaycon is a great resource for those of us in Arizona; they are a wholesale seller of chicken and beef, and much  more. They routinely announce sales for our our area, and will take orders online -  Boneless Skinless Chicken, for example, is usually every few months, and is sold in a case of 40 pounds. If you can’t squeeze 40 pounds in your freezer you can always split with a friend.

Likewise you can use the Green PolkaDot Box as well – they sell Natural, Organic & Non-GMO Foods at wholesale prices – and deliver to your doorstep. You can read more about them in my last post – we love using them for our grass-fed ground beef (and  it eliminates a trip to Costco).

Use Vegetables to Supplement your Recipes.

We love meat in our house, and we do not discriminate…. I love a great steak, and Dave is a huge fan of ribs. But one thing we have done over the last year to stretch out our purchases is to use a greater proportion of vegetables in our dinner recipes to supplement the meat.

We love steak…… but we’ll watch the produce sales and if we score great deals on Peppers and Potatoes, we will try to use up as many Vegetables as we can to lessen the meat we are using –you can still eat well, but you’ll feel full just as quickly (and your body will thank you, too!)

Using Favado to Create your Best Price Shopping List

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Just wanted to toss out this reminder – the last few days I have had requests for a separate list of “$1 or less” or FREE items at the grocery stores.

If you have Favado you can make your own list of $1 or FREE Items.

You will need to create a Favado Account from your favorite blog that features Favado deals (not all blogs are fortunate to have Favado deals so you’ll need to stick with one that does!)

Once you establish an account, you can head to select your favorite store (Fry’s, Safeway or any other store).

Choose BEST for all deals I mark $1 or less at Fry’s or Safeway (or Bashas), and you will instantly have a list of all items that are in that category, final price and coupon(s) used to get to that deal.

Don’t forget you can also sync your shopping list from the computer to your phone – read how in my last post.

Simple Ways to Encourage your Children to Save

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How do you teach your children the value of a dollar?  We just moved up in our house to a larger jar… effective yesterday.

This is just one way, aside from coupons, that our kids learn the value of money.  My daughter has been putting her money away to save up for a car when she’s 16 (used of course, I would never allow her to buy a new one).

Dave & I keep our change on an daily basis  – we each have a jar on the end of our nightstand and every night, we toss our change from our pocket in the jar.

Each morning my daughter brings the jars down, jumps in the larger jar, and carries the smaller jars back upstairs.

Today I cleaned the truck so I found all kinds of coins stuffed in seats, in the cup holder, in the crevice of the car seat and even under floor mats… Wendy cleaned my purse and found even more loose change to add – some dollars too.

Believe it or not, that change does add up fast.    We either roll it our take to the Coinstar every other month, and the earnings go into a simple savings account at the bank.  We save for their college separately through a simple 529 plan we opened when they were born (which we contribute through automatic draft).

I encourage you to do the same – if not for your kids then for yourselves!  It is an easy way to save up for Christmas, or a trip to Disney.  

Understanding Regional Differences in Newspaper Inserts

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One part of couponing that can be frustrating for many is the regional differences in newspaper inserts. You make your shopping list, and you can’t locate the coupon that is in the Cents’Able Shoppin Grocery Store List.  You look, and look, and can’t seem to find the coupon – does that ever happen to you?

Each week there are variations within inserts – different states, and even within the same city, different grocery stores and even gas stations. In Phoenix, it seems to be more pronounced, much of that has to do with the Arizona Republic and subscription rates.

It’s impotant for those of you here in the Phoenix area to remember that inserts will likely be better for those of you who subscribe to the Arizona Republic  their goal is to sell papers, generate revenue.

You can find the same newspaper at the Dollar Tree, Gas Station and Grocery Store on Sunday as well, but they may not have all of the inserts – your ability to pay less for the paper at those alternative stores would detract from their revenue and goal of subscription sales… which is why you won’t find “all” the coupons.

You can also visit Food City, Pro’s Ranch and random areas of town to score the Yes! paper – but it will not have all of the same coupons as the large paid-version of the Newspaper.

Donna asked for my advice a few days ago, curios to know how she can score all of the inserts, each Sunday, without having to drive around:

I live in the north Phoenix area and have been noticing a difference in the coupon schedule and what is in our papers. I’ve also found that if I drive to a different area, the newspapers have the complete selection of coupons, as indicated on the SundayCouponPreview. I’m at a loss because today, the store I had been using suddenly did not have the complete selection of coupons either! Is it strange that if I drive 10 miles, I get the full set of coupons?

I would suggest considering delivery of the Arizona Republic – you can request Sunday and Wednesday delivery for a low cost each month. OR, you can order your inserts from a Clipping Service – keep in mind that they will have variations as well – so review the insert they have prior to ordering to ensure that you are getting the coupons you are looking for.

Some tips:

If you are in the Phoenix area and do not subscribe to the AZ Republic Sunday Paper, there is an opportunity for you to score the coupons and ads within delivered to your home for FREE.  The offer is limited to specific zip codes- you can see details and a map HERE as to the qualifying areas… and to call the Republic and request.

Should you need to order coupons or inserts, I recommend using We Clip U Save (Full Inserts), or Coupons & Things By Dede.  You can also use Oregon Coupon Clipper for Full Inserts as well.

Lastly, should you want to find out where your paper compares each Sunday, you can join us on Facebook; many times readers will swap coupons, and share their Sunday paper-hunting experiences.

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Lastly, don’t forget you can use the Cents’Able Shoppin Coupon Database on the site as well. The database is maintained by a third party – and does not always reflect the regional differences we get here locally.

Tips for Shopping at Dollar Tree

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Many of you over the last few months have tried, at least once or twice, to shop at the Dollar Tree. I occasionally go there as well – for certain items… my store usually has everything I am looking for, but I usually only shop for those 2-3 basic items.

During your trips, you might notice that not all Dollar Tree locations have the same items. In fact, when we post the matchups for The Dollar Tree, we will often say “Items will vary by store”. Here are some tips to shopping at Dollar Tree that might help you better understand why you can, or can’t, find those fun freebie items:

::: Dollar Tree has 3 different sizes to their store – the larger stores will have more selection than the smaller (larger stores being categorized as 10,000 square feet or more)

::: Dollar Tree can order certain things “all” the time (some name brand, some store brand)

::: Dollar Tree does “Buy Outs” – based on what the store normally sells – the truck will contain additional items based on that. Managers and employees do not know what those “extra” items are until the list comes the day before – sometimes, depending on those items, you may not see them hit the floor, as employees may scoop up those extras before they actually go out on shelves.

::: If it is a BIG buy, you will see it in ALL stores – just recently, P&G cut the size of Gain Dryer Sheets from 40 to 34. In efforts to put the NEW size out on National Retail Shelves, Dollar Tree bought out the 40 ct size – and almost every store had those for a period of a month (until they were exhausted).  Another type of buy out would be after Christmas, if the retailer is eager to get all the holiday items “out” of their store, Dollar Tree may buy out the Softsoap Christmas scents, or other random items.

The key to shopping at Dollar Tree is finding that “big” store in your area - most times they have a fridge or freezer section and over 10,000 square feet of space – if you can find that huge store, you will find it easier to score those freebies we post in the Dollar Tree Matchups. 

Also remember, that since they are a Dollar Store, they will not often carry the same items from week to week, and they will not always have name brand.. they are, after all, a Dollar Store.

thanks, AFC